ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously approved a three-month pilot program enforcing public mask compliance in conjunction with the San Diego County Sheriff Department at its August 26 meeting.
In addition, the council unanimously approved a prohibition on the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products, adopted a policy implementing regulations on sidewalk vending operators, and discussed a need for increased neighborhood notifications for changes to traffic infrastructure.
In response to a statewide mandate requiring mask usage, Encinitas’s mask compliance program will roll-out prior to Labor Day weekend, costing the city $15,000 in total and permitting the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to issue citations up to $1,000.
According to Assistant City Manager Mark Delin, the primary purpose of the pilot program is to increase education and compliance, comparing it to those in neighboring cities, and laying out the Sheriff Department’s role.
“The Sheriff’s deputies will be focusing on educating people on the benefits and requirements of masks as well as distributing city-provided masks to people that do not have them,” Delin said. “The program we’re proposing is similar to what Del Mar is doing, though shorter in duration and [their] City Manager describes [their] program as being quite successful.”
Delin justified the use of the Sheriff’s Department to enforce the program, first noting, “the city does not have an applicable municipal code section and would need to… pass a resolution in order to have staff enforce this. [Also,] we don’t have the available staffing that works on weekends.”
Delin continued, adding “the Sheriff’s officers carry the weight of the law and have backup if needed. They have the power to issue citations and they’re trained in dealing with difficult situations and de-escalation.”
Delin stated that after interviewing local businesses, the pilot program was beneficial to Encinitas business owners, many of whom expressed enthusiastic support.
Councilmembers expressed their own reservations, however, ultimately all voted in favor of the compliance program.
Councilwoman Jody Hubbard believed the program is essential for struggling businesses. “Let’s let our businesses succeed. Let’s give them a chance [and] not have to shut down again. I would much rather have the sheriff talk to [residents] than put the employees in a restaurant or a store… in an impossible situation.”
Councilman Joe Mosca added, “education is the key thing here. I don’t want to have a situation where we’re basically using our law enforcement to cite a number of people.”
Mayor Catherine Blakespear noted the city has persistently received complaints requesting increased public enforcement during previous months and such a program would alleviate those concerns.
Blakespear says the program will strategically place deputies in community “hot spots” such as beach staircases and the downtown business area to enforce regulations, not assign deputies to all public spaces.
After the August 26 meeting, Deputy Mayor Kellie Hinze spoke to the Coast News in length about the program as well as the overarching debate surrounding mask usage in the country.
“There are so many laws the government enforces to keep people safe… we have laws on seatbelts, we wear shoes to go into restaurants, but these things don’t pose the same kind of political division as masks,” Hinze said. “It’s really shocking.”
“Based on my email inbox and conversations with my constituents, I’m seeing a desire for more compliance,” Hinze added. “Now we’re in a phase where we’re really working as a team… it’s the city, it’s residents, it’s the administrators of schools and our families working to get things to open back up again.”
Hinze re-iterated that the program’s first step is to issue a free mask and have an educational conversation, not an automatic citation. “The goal is not to issue tickets,” Hinze said. “In fact, if we are issuing tickets, then we need to think of how else to do this. I don’t see tickets as the end-all-be-all.”
During the meeting, the council also unanimously approved an ordinance implementing a Sidewalk Vending Operations Program, establishing policy regulating pop-up stands in the public right-of-way.
The draft policy is the first of such in the City of Encinitas, building on the previous permitting process by further defining prohibited activities, locations, public health and safety standards, as well as establishing enforcement penalties, revocation, and an appeal process.
In closing, Councilman Tony Kranz introduced an agenda item discussing a need for additional communication between the city and residents in regards to All Way Stop Controls and other traffic infrastructure changes.
The full council meeting and agenda can be viewed here.